Dan and Mike’s Manhattan Kitchen Renovation — Sweetened!

This week, we get a peek into what happens when Manhattanites boldly go where so few seem to venture…taking down kitchen walls! This Hell’s Kitchen renovation would have been stylish even if it had stayed within its original dimensions, but taking a wall down was the first step in making the space virtually unrecognizable. Scroll on down for the play by play on this ambitious Manhattan kitchen renovation.


“In some ways, we bit off more than we could chew. Sweeten introduced us to Sandy who was really easy to work with, flexible about our plans, and helpful with things that were uncertain or unexpectedly discovered behind walls.

–Dan, Hell’s Kitchen homeowner

Dan and Mike moved into this one bedroom, one bathroom co-op in Manhattan’s storied Piano Factory building in 2013. The building, converted from a 19th century warehouse that once served as the manufacturing site for the inner workings of pianos, is an industrial brick building in Hell’s Kitchen with a beautiful Romanesque entry and a graceful courtyard. Dan and Mike loved the building’s history and architecture, but found themselves in an apartment constructed in the grand tradition of many 1980s co-op conversions: boxy rooms, segmented living spaces, a dated pass-through in the wall that sectioned off the kitchen from the living area, and kitchen finishes that were unchanged from the apartment’s first owner. Worse still, the kitchen’s sizable window was hidden in the back of the room, blocking light and limiting the impact that a windowed kitchen should have.

Dan, a technology scout for a chemical company, and Mike, who works in finance for a construction company, liked the layout and the slightly retro feel of the original kitchen but envisioned opening up the room, making it part of the larger living area, and finding creative storage ideas to make the space work harder and smarter for them. Armed with an architect’s drawing, Dan and Mike posted their project on Sweeten to take down the wall, gut the kitchen, and extend the counters and cabinetry . We introduced them to Sweeten Expert Sandy to handle the demolition and full re-build.

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Though they loved the industrial past of the building, Dan and Mike didn’t want to go too far with an industrial modern aesthetic. They set out to create an updated look balanced by raw and unfinished accents to fill the open plan room, and played with different natural and synthetic wood finishes to maintain a measure of warmth and masculinity amid the clean lines.

Demolishing the wall had an enormous impact on the space, and Dan and Mike took the newfound breathing room even farther by removing the upper line of cabinets altogether and replacing the original base laminates with a full set of IKEA cabinets and drawers, which Sandy installed with custom doors and hardware from semihandmade. The new, more functional base cabinets gave the couple enough storage capacity to go minimal on top — Dan found salvaged Douglas Fir pieces and created open floating shelves in a shop in Greenpoint. This move allows the open kitchen to flow more seamlessly into the living room, and significantly reduced visual heft through to the kitchen’s window.

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In their search for a tougher and more durable alternative to concrete countertops, Dan and Mike found Dekton, an ultra-compacted blend of raw materials that Dan reports is virtually impenetrable. Dan couldn’t help but reveal his expertise as a tech scout for a chemical company when he explained that the material was also attractive because its raw materials are free of synthetic resins that are often used in construction. Dan and Mike loved the look of a waterfall counter and worked with Sandy to create the effect so that the kitchen entry was marked and separated visually by the countertop extension of the cabinet peninsula.

To contrast with the striated cabinetry and porcelain floor tiles finished with an end-cut wood grain look, the couple selected a classic white subway tile and neutral gray grout to line the walls from floor to ceiling, and added a gray and black mosaic tile accent to meet the height of the kitchen’s window.

Sweeten Expert Sandy helped to complete the transformation by stealing twelve inches of brand new pull-out pantry space from a walk-in closet adjacent to the kitchen, and adding an ultra-minimal storage rack for pots and pans. Dan and Mike chose stainless steel appliances throughout and especially love the 30 inch Wolf range with its signature red knobs, as well as the unconventionally tall Summit fridge – a great find for tight kitchens.

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So many thanks to Dan and Mike for this eye-opening tour of their spacious little-kitchen-that-could! I love seeing the results of the partnership with Sweeten Expert Sandy, the combination of IKEA and custom cabinetry, and the owners’ own handiwork all on display here. If you are ready to see what your tiny kitchen can do, post your project on Sweeten to meet general contractors who can help you create a space you will love.